There are two annual passes we have bought every year that I highly recommend, the “Forest Adventure” pass and the “America the Beautiful” pass. You can buy them online at My Scenic Drives.
The “Forest Adventure” pass is $30 and a second is only $5 more, so share with a friend! It allows you to park anywhere in the forest. Yes, there is controversy here. Does the money really go to keeping the trails nice and the bathrooms clean? Who knows?! And do they give tickets for parking without one? Occasionally. And I’ve heard the fine is the same as the pass. But…I’m trying my best to teach civics here as well and the law of the land is to have a parking pass, so we get one and leave it at that.
The “America the Beautiful” pass is $80 and gets you into all the National Parks. Of course, if you don’t plan on leaving the immediate area this year, you can always get an annual pass for just Joshua Tree National Park for $40, but we’ve found that we usually get up to other parks in California at least once a year, so the $80 one is a deal for that.
When I lived in Orange County as a kid, I rarely went up to the mountains. My parents worked regular, Monday through Friday type, jobs, so we only had weekends and holidays to make the trek. Those are crazy busy times! I just assumed it was always like that, so I didn’t take my kids up there until we moved out to the desert and were looking for fun stuff to do during the week while Dad worked. That’s when I fell in love with Big Bear!
We’ve been making the hour drive up there about once a week for years now. We’ve explored mountain trails, hiked all over, gone fishing (another permit, of course, we ARE in California), looked for geocaches, played in the snow, ate (a lot), mountain biked, gone to the zoo. There’s so much to do up there! And during the week it’s so NOT crowded!
Here are a few links to places we love!
Fishing – Take Me Fishing is a good place to start if you’ve never been before! You can get a license there and look up the myriad of rules. I also love Big Bear Lake Sporting Goods. You can get a license there and everything else you need. Ask all the questions you like, they are nice people!
Mountain Biking – Check out Mountain Bike Big Bear for trails and such. And the best bike shop ever is Chains Required! Great prices, great people, they have everything you need. You can even rent a bike for a day and see if you enjoy the sport!
Hiking – AllTrails can help you find the best trail for you. Add Geocache to your phone and find those on the way!
Big Bear Discovery Center
Big Bear Zoo
And my favorite tip, we always stop at the Village Visitor Center first for a bathroom break and to re-group after the drive. It has saved us many times. I’ll also admit that we stop there before we leave as well. Lunch, ice cream, bookstore. They even have an awesome music store!
What does this have to do with home education? Everything. This IS education. So much science, history, PE, even literature. This isn’t a day off for adventuring. The adventuring IS the education. We had a backpack of snacks, water, and tools we took with us everywhere. We took pictures of things we found, made maps of where we went, looked at things with microscopes and binoculars. We had a notebook to draw in, a nature guide, a bandana (for everything), and a first aid kit. We even brought a book with us and read out loud while we picnicked at the top of the hike, alongside the lake, or in a grassy meadow. Go explore!